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State investigating more cases in Wisconsin counties of lung disease caused by vaping

MADISON, Wis. - A state health agency is investigating 11 cases of teens and young adults hospitalized with a severe lung disease linked to vaping.

Seven other cases are also under investigation, according to a release by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

Door, Racine, Walworth, Dodge, Waukesha and Winnebago counties all have confirmed cases. 

“We strongly urge people to avoid vaping products and e-cigarettes. Anyone—especially young people who have recently vaped—experiencing unexplained breathing problems should see a doctor," said Andrea Palm, the Department of Health Services secretary-designee. 

Eight Wisconsin teens were hospitalized in July for damaged lungs.

The department is hosting a special Facebook chat at 2 p.m. Friday. The goal is to have experts answer your questions about the illness and vaping. 

Patients experienced shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, cough and weight loss, according to the release. The severity of the disease has varied among patients, with some needing assistance to breathe.

It is unclear if there will be long-term health effects and the ages of the patients.

In Wisconsin, 11% of middle schoolers have tried electronic tobacco products. Of those kids, 4% are current users, according to the health department.  Around 32 percent have tried e-cigarettes by high school and 20% consider themselves current users.

Nationwide vaping among middle and high school students increased by 900% between 2011 and 2015, according to a report from the US Surgeon General. 

E-cigarettes were introduced in the United States less than 15 years ago and are still being studied by scientists. Most still contain nicotine, the same chemical compound found in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. 

Teens can buy e-liquids full of "fun flavors" like gummy bears and butterscotch. One study, shared by the Wisconsin health department found more than 80% of teens who have ever used a tobacco start with a flavored product.

Scientists who have analyzed e-liquids say that some of them contain heavy metals like nickle, tin and lead.

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